God’s people had been through a lot over their early years; they finally left Egypt very wealthy, and were on their way to the Promised Land but they were not grateful. They grumbled about the miraculous manna from heaven, they criticized their leadership, they were led by God...
Be like the Son of Man. He did not come to be served.Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free.(Matthew 20:28 NIRV) What does it mean that Jesus came to Earth? That he laid down his heavenly Glory, and...
You see the message everywhere…billboards, television, shops, malls, front yards, newspapers, magazines…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!! Feel the joy! Joy to the World rings out from the radio, church choirs, elevators, carolers, and the speakers of every...
When bad things happen to me, I feel sorry for myself. I interpret it as evidence of God's absence. His lack of favor, my inadequacy, and being cursed really. But when I read what God says to do, it reframes the bad with the good. James 1:2-6 says, "2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and...
I probably don't need to tell most of you that life isn't easy. That it is a challenge. That it is hard and that it hurts. But still by grace we have been given a choice.So I want to ask you: how are you going to live the next part of eternity?Broken down and giving up or rising up and trusting...
The reason that we are not experiencing what the Word of God says, is because we are mis-aligned; we are not doing what the Word of God says. When we are button pushing, controlling, fault finding, arrogant, critical or negative, we are being evil and we need to repent of that and work for...
God’s people had been through a lot over their early years; they finally left Egypt very wealthy, and were on their way to the Promised Land but they were not grateful. They grumbled about the miraculous manna from heaven, they criticized their leadership, they were led by God himself in the form of fire and cloud. Yet they asked to have a golden calf built so they could bow down to it. There definitely seemed to be an absence of joy during those times. Fast forward to present times and there seems to be an absence of joy in the present day as well, at least among believers and it should not be so.
Joy is a Person and a Path
When Jesus appeared as the Savior, he brought joy in the form of his person, and a path of eternal life to be reunited with God. In Matthew 3:17, we read: And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” Jesus brings God great joy. We, as Jesus’ disciples also bring the Father great joy when we follow his commandments and share his love with others.
I’ve been meditating on a line from Nehemiah 8:10 recently. It says: ...Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Whenever I feel down, things not going my way, anything that could go wrong seems to go wrong, I remind myself that I am weak on my own, but in God, I am strong. No need to be a grumpy, sad, overcast believer. Turn that frown upside down and rejoice because God has already won whatever battle, or condition, or circumstance for us.
Rejoice in Everything
When I read through the scripture there is so much emphasis on joy and rejoicing, it is clear that God wanted us to be happy in everything. The shepherds saw the star signaling the birth of Jesus, they were filled with joy (Matthew 2:10). A sinner repents and returns to God, heaven rejoices (Luke 15:7). If you experience any kind of trouble, count it all joy (James 1:2-8). If you are having a good day, be joyful, a bad day, be joyful. If you are having a meal together, be joyful (Acts 2:46). In this way we can show a broken world that we have something that they need.
Have you ever noticed when you go to a store that a salesperson most always will approach you with a smile and try to be very helpful? If you had to choose between a person with a smile and a person with a grumpy look on their face, whom would you want to be your salesperson? In the same way a broken world needs a joyful messenger to share a message of love.
If we live as believers and love Jesus, we have to live joyfully. We should perform a course correction in our lives if that is not already our norm. I’ve personally been working hard on myself in that respect. I’ve recently been through a nerve-wracking trial and I just stopped worrying about it and saying to myself, God’s got it. I cast my cares on him and I felt better immediately. I’ve been putting his word first, acknowledging him (Proverbs 3:6) and everything is working out for good.
I recently added a sticky note reminder to my work computer with the following items of encouragement:
- LG – let it go, and Let God,
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and
- The joy of the Lord is my strength.
These sayings serve as daily reminders that I am loved and I need to reflect the love of God to others every day, no matter what.
As we fast approach Christmas Day, let us choose to follow the path of joy. Let us continually seek the joyful fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) every minute of every day of our lives.
Every day we remain on earth is another opportunity to demonstrate God’s love to someone. I like to pray that God be reflected through me, especially his joy.
If joy makes us strong, then sorrow probably weakens us. There are times when we may feel we have no choice but to be sad, but we have a comforter in Christ who knows and who is there for us. Let us choose joy no matter the issue (1 Thessalonians 5:16).
We have a short time on earth and an eternity in heaven, let us act in a way that the Father will say that this is my child in whom I am pleased.
Be like the Son of Man.
He did not come to be served.
Instead, he came to serve others.
He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free.
(Matthew 20:28 NIRV)
What does it mean that Jesus came to Earth? That he laid down his heavenly Glory, and stepped into the world as a baby. To grow and live. To follow God with every breath, every step. To show us the way.
The way of love.
The way of peace.
The way of joy.
Do you know the love of Jesus? A love so deep that he calls you brother. The love that put you first when he gave his life for you so you could be with him for all eternity.
Do you know the peace of Jesus? The peace that passes all understanding. The peace that covers you when everything is chaos. The peace that breathes, “Be still, I AM.”
Do you know the joy of Jesus? The joy of knowing you are a child of the King. The joy of knowing that if God is for you nothing can stand against you. The joy of a fellowship with God that gives you purpose and passion.
If you don't know these things, you can when you get to know Jesus. When you decide that your way is inadequate and the only way to really have life is by allowing Jesus to lead your every step.
If you know Jesus, it’s time to act. Time to make it real. Time to share this love, this peace, this joy, with a world that is broken and hurting; a world that needs to know how much Jesus loves them.
How will you share Jesus with the world in 2017?
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You see the message everywhere…billboards, television, shops, malls, front yards, newspapers, magazines…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
Feel the joy!
Joy to the World rings out from the radio, church choirs, elevators, carolers, and the speakers of every store you enter.
Is that real joy?
Start your list of shopping, baking, decorating, letter writing, card signing, party prep, volunteering, donating, caroling, gift wrapping and spreading of good cheer.
Where’s the joy?
Prepare for the relatives, for Santa’s visit, stuff the stocking, calm the children, fix the meals, settle the arguments, diffuse the tension, set the perfect table, be seen at the right gatherings, and deal with the dissatisfaction.
There is no joy.
Swept up in the chaos of Christmas. Missing the joy of the season. The world eagerly steals our joy as we stretch and strive to meet and exceed all the expectations around us.
Can we find joy?
The Psalmist had some insight throughout the Psalms. When he spoke to God in Psalm 5:11 we read, “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name rejoice in you.”
In the rush of December and throughout the year, our God will protect us. Loving God leads to rejoicing as he protects us from all that’s drawing us into the world.
Yet we want to meet the Christmas challenge head on, taking charge of all that is around us. We sleep less, we read our Bible less, we eat more, spend more and do so in the name of “holiday cheer”.
We have a choice. Push ahead and force our way through, determined that we’ll get things right again in January. It’s Jesus’ birthday after all. It’s the key event to our Christian faith. It’s the least we can do is to be of service to him and others, right?
Or we can slow down and seek the presence of Jesus, knowing we will be right with Jesus now.
Let's change our mindset to celebrating the birth of Christ with Christ at the center. Drop the desire to meet all the world’s expectations. This is the service he wants from us. He just wants us.
Maybe it is a radical change in thought process. It may be uncomfortable at first. But as we spend time focusing on his presence we will find more than joy. We will find peace, be filled with love, and know Jesus more fully.
When we find Jesus is all we have, we will find Jesus is all we need knowing the best is yet to come!
And that is the Joy of Christmas
When bad things happen to me, I feel sorry for myself. I interpret it as evidence of God's absence. His lack of favor, my inadequacy, and being cursed really. But when I read what God says to do, it reframes the bad with the good.
James 1:2-6 says, "2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..."
How could any of us with our three pounds of grey matter approach the decisions of the complexity of life confident in and of ourselves that we've got it right?
Humility says I do need wisdom.
Here's the great news of going to the good of God with the bad of not knowing: "5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God..." -It's prayer! "...who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you..."
If we have the humility to ask, God gives generously and abundantly. He gives wisdom to everyone who just dares to ask!
Now the believing part, is that we have to do it with confidence in God's present response.
"6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."
So when we read, we read believing in the presence of 'the presence.' And when we pray, we pray believing in hearing the Father confidently and we trust that the good of God is actually bigger than the bad of the world!
I'm just telling you, something super natural happens in our lives as the good of God answers the pain of life...overwhelms it...then the good of God pours out of us in authentic, life-changing ways for us and the people in our path! -Dr. Drew Shofner
I probably don't need to tell most of you that life isn't easy. That it is a challenge. That it is hard and that it hurts. But still by grace we have been given a choice.
So I want to ask you: how are you going to live the next part of eternity?
Broken down and giving up or rising up and trusting God?
Right now, where you are may seem so long and hard and overwhelming, but I just want to remind you that it's just one part of eternity. It's just one next in a long series until we begin the next part of eternity in the presence of God, or apart from God if we didn't want His love.
In Matthew 9:1-8, we read the story that took place in Jesus' home town. Here's a picture of Jesus, on the road, out in life, going after people and revealing the love of The Father in His own life in the power of an unseen Spirit in a way that changed everything!
Jesus stepped into a boat and crossed over and came to His own home town. Some men brought him a paralytic lying on a mat, and when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic something unexpected and something strange. Jesus said, "Take heart son, your sins are forgiven…" then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home!" And the man got up and he went home. No longer stuck in dead religion, no longer stuck in the realities of life, now the Kingdom of God had come and now the unpredictability of the love of God was let loose on planet earth - and everything changed!
What if, more than we need everything that is frustrating us in this moment. What if, not having them is what depresses us and discourages us?
What if we just needed to celebrate our forgiveness and from this point forward, just live joyfully toward home knowing that this earth isn't it?
What if we trusted that God is giving us, from His goodness, all that we need and that we can live joyfully on our way home?
We've basically got a choice, we can follow sin: Sin means that we're all deeply broken like the layers of an onion at successive and concentric ways. We're all deeply broken all the way to the core of our being. It's all fractured, it's all broken, it's all leaking life! And you and I can live our lives in ever-increasing sin and brokenness to where the darkness continues to increase and the sadness is growing and the loss is adding up for the rest of this part of eternity - or we can follow forgiveness all the way home to joy!
You see, that's what Jesus did.
We just celebrated Easter, and the scripture gives us an insight into what Jesus was thinking every step of the way. With every blow to His jaw, every time the whip was laid on His back...and every time the hammer drove the nails in...the scripture tells us what was on Jesus' mind. The scripture tells us in Hebrews 12:2, "Let us look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross scorning it's shame." He was heading home and in spite of that agony of the moment, He trusted God and lived courageously toward joy!
You and I need to live courageously grateful for the forgiveness of our sins, and if nothing ever happens in our life that we call good, we have the gift of the forgiveness of everything that leaks life, that tears us apart and destroys us in this part of eternity! We're coming to a part of eternity where there is going to be joy, if we will have it. But in this part of eternity where we're still on the ground and where it's hard, we are called by God to live courageously grateful for the gift that matters more than all the other stuff that we demand from God and put before it, and it's all found in this one phrase, "Take heart my child, your sins are forgiven."
Despite what you believe, God does not have a bad attitude toward you. No, He says, "Take heart my child your sins are forgiven." -Matthew 9:2 (Take heart- The Greek word here means to have confidence and firmness of purpose in the face of adversity or testing.)
I want you to imagine the man paralyzed in Matthew. His day began bad like every other day...but in the presence of the freedom of Jesus, everything changed. I want you to follow my forgiveness in a way that transforms your sorrow into joy and I want you to live gratefully from this point forward and be courageous so take heart my son get up off of the broken place where you are and walk home!
Can you imagine the joy his parents felt? Guys, that's you and that's me!
How many of us are laying on the ground and letting life pass us by? You don't have to hate yourself - you're free! We gotta make a decision. We gotta ask for forgiveness and until that day we gotta head home healed and live courageously. This is the life that we are invited to - accept forgiveness and live courageously toward joy! -Dr. Drew Shofner